The Rev. Dr. Mel White has been a Christian minister, author, and filmmaker all his adult life. Raised as a evangelical Christian, taught that homosexuality was a sin, he fought to overcome his own homosexual orientation for decades in all ways available to him: prayer, psychotherapy, exorcism, electric shock, marriage and family. That struggle and his halting, poignant steps to understand and accept his homosexuality, reconcile it with his Christian faith, and express his sexuality respectfully and responsibly, are described in his book Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, published in 1994.
In 1993, he came out publicly when he was installed as dean at the Dallas Cathedral of Hope of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). He announced during his first sermon, "I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation."
Mel White founded Soulforce Inc. in 1998 with his partner, Gary Nixon. Mel has been developing his work with Soulforce principles for many years.He was dismayed by the increasing confrontational tone on both sides the homosexual issue, and the hateful words and actions that increased the divide. Inspired by the nonviolence movements of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., White developed a program based on their principles. These principles were called satyagraha or "soul force" by Gandhi, who based many of them on the teachings of Jesus, and White adopted them to address the suffering of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people.
During his six years with UFMCC, he traveled across the country constantly to minister to those impacted by prejudice and hatred against gays and to campaign for civil rights, theological reconsideration, and social acceptance for sexual minorities. His work has resulted in his being arrested on the White House steps during a hunger strike protesting the 'Defense of Marriage Act.' He was also arrested for protesting the Rev. Pat Robertson's virulent anti-gay rhetoric. (After a weeks-long hunger strike in jail, White was visited by Robertson, who promised to avoid inaccuracies and inflammatory language.)
In 1997, the Rev. Dr. Mel White was awarded the ACLU's National Civil Liberties Award for his efforts to apply the "soul force" principles of Gandhi and King to the struggle for justice for sexual minorities.
White did graduate work in communications and film at the University of Southern California, received his doctorate and was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary for over a decade. During this time he also worked as an evangelical pastor. He produced, wrote, and directed 53 documentary films and television specials, focusing on stories to inspire and inform the struggle to be human. He is also an author; among his 16 books (nine bestsellers), he wrote about the Philippines' Ninoy and Corazon Aquino (Aquino), the Jonestown tragedy (Deceived), David Rothenberg, the child burned by his father (David) and talk-show host/producer Mike Douglas (When the Going Gets Tough).
In addition, he ghost wrote several books for fellow evangelicals, including Billy Graham (Approaching Hoofbeats), Pat Robertson (America's Date with Destiny), Jim Bakker, and Jerry Falwell (If I Should Die Before I Wake and Strength for the Journey). In all those writings, however, he never wrote against homosexuality. White began coming out privately and gradually during the same period that the religious right stepped up its anti-gay rhetoric. Since 1993, he has devoted himself full-time to minister to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered and to work on their behalf in the media, in the political process, and with fellow religious leaders.
Since the founding of Soulforce in 1998, Mel and his Soulforce volunteers have have waged a relentless campaign ranging from their first visit to Jerry Falwell, in October of 1999, to three years of confronting the Southern Baptist Convention, and the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, in 2000, 2001, and 2002. In January of 2002, Soulforce travelled to the Vatican to try and speak with Cardinal Ratzinger, the chief author of the anti-gay teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, in 2000, Mel and the Soulforce volunteers faced arrests at the Methodist, Presbyterian and the Episcopalian annual meetings. The following year, they carried the campaign to the Evangelical Lutherans in Indianapolis, in addition to the SBC and USCCB.
(This biographical statement provided by Mel White.)
Biography Date: August, 2002